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For many gardeners, annuals are a go-to solution for many garden needs. Annual flowers are a quick way to fill empty spots in flowerbeds, and early-blooming spring annuals make great additions to container gardens. A mix of annual plants can offer a colorful solution for windowbox plantings. However, for any garden, there are dozens of annuals that might work for particular sun/shade situations, soil conditions, and color/plant preferences. The Plant Encyclopedia is a sortable plant database that helps you narrow down the best annuals for your growing conditions, as well as the annual flowers that offer the color and growing habit you prefer. In addition, detailed information on how to plant and grow annuals as well as color, foliage and texture combos will help you create your most beautiful flower groupings yet. View a list of annuals by common name or scientific name.
garden plans for annuals
Native to the desert Southwest, desert marigold explodes with bright yellow flowers in early spring and continues unfurling blossoms until midsummer. This self-seeding perennial has a somewhat floppy shape. It demands good drainage and requires little or no supplemental water. For best results, plant desert marigold in full sun and fast-draining soil.
The delicate, peachy-pink flowers of diascia are something a little different. Found with increasing frequency in garden centers, diascia is a snapdragonlike flower gaining popularity because you can plant it so early in the spring. A perennial in the southernmost regions of the U.S., it's a cool-season annual elsewhere. Plant it a few weeks before your region's last frost for early fall color, especially in containers.
In the bed or border, diascia is an airy pick that ties other plants together. It blooms in a wide range of pink shades -- from cool, bubblegum pinks to warmer tones of peach, coral, and salmon. After it blooms in spring, cut it back. It is likely to stop blooming for a while once summer heat hits. When things cool off, it will rebloom. It has average water needs, so don't over- or underwater. Fertilize lightly but regularly.
This striking new trailing annual gives you a fresh, new way to work in elegant silver foliage into your container and other plantings. Perfect in a hanging basket, window box, or other container, this plant can trail up to 6 feet with showy, soft foliage like no other. Native to areas of the Southwest, it's also very heat- and drought-tolerant so you can count on it to look good all season long, even if it wilts a few times.
It's a perennial in the very warmest parts of the U.S. but is treated like an annual elsewhere. It needs well-drained soil (another reason it's great for containers), so be careful to avoid wet spots if you're planting it directly in the ground.
For versatility in the garden, it's hard to beat beautiful, easy-grows-it dill. This herb fills a planting area with a fountain of graceful, delicate foliage. Flat flower heads beckon butterflies, bees, and other good bugs. Snip tasty foliage to flavor home-cooked fare, from potatoes, to soups, to egg dishes. Save seeds for seasoning bread, stews, root vegetable dishes, and pickles. Dill thrives in dry, sunny spots, and plants self-seed to keep the crop coming year after year. To ensure a steady supply of foliage for snipping, sow seeds every four weeks during the growing season.
Green lacewings, an aphid predator, frequent dill plantings, making dill a great companion for roses and other aphid favorites. Black swallowtail butterflies lay eggs on dill. Look for black, green, and yellow striped caterpillars munching their way along stems.
This unusual annual has beautiful blue-and-white flowers almost orchidlike in their beauty. A tropical shrub in the warmest parts of the country, Zones 8-11, duranta is grown in the rest of the country as an annual. It delights gardeners with its airy clusters of blue, violet, or white flowers followed by golden fruits. Plant it in a container and come fall, it will make a good indoor plant in a large, sunny, south-facing window.
Watch for selections with variegated foliage; they add even more interest. As tropical shrubs, they can reach 15 feet or more, but when grown as annuals in cool regions, they seldom top 5 feet. Plant in spring in rich, well-drained soil after all danger of frost has passed. Fertilize moderately. Keep moist but do not overwater.
Dusty miller is a favorite because it looks good with everything. The silvery-white color is a great foil for any type of garden blossom and the fine-textured foliage creates a beautiful contrast against other plants' green foliage. Dusty miller has also earned its place in the garden because it's delightfully easy to grow, withstanding heat and drought like a champion.
If you'd like a low-maintenance annual for your beds, borders, or containers, it's tough to find a better performer than euphorbia. This group of plants offers outstanding heat and drought resistance. Plus, they have a white, milky sap that animals don't like, so they're rarely nibbled on by deer, rabbits, or other critters. (Be warned, though: The sap can irritate sensitive skin.)
The wide variety of euphorbia selections offers different heights, colors, and textures in the garden.
If you love morning glories, try this low-growing cousin, which has even more gorgeous sky blue flowers. Like the morning glory that grows upward, this more earthbound beauty produces striking blue flowers all season long. And like its cousin, the flowers tend to close in the afternoon hours. In Zones 8-11, in the warmest part of the country, this tropical is a perennial; farther north, it's grown as an annual. Its spreading habit is perfect for spilling over baskets, window boxes, and other containers.
Plant established plants outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. Evolvulus likes rich, well-drained soil and needs just average water. It's somewhat drought-tolerant, so don't overwater.
How cool is this? This small grass has slender, bobbing blades with neat little ball-like seedheads at the end, inspiring its unlikely name: fiber-optic grass.
It's an eye-catching way of adding texture to small containers and the front of a border. It thrives in sun or shade, though it does love moist soil -- so much so you can grow it as a water-garden plant as long as you keep the crown above the water level. It grows well as an indoor plant, so you can also bring it in for year-round color.
Thank goodness for kale. It's one of the few plants available to add a fresh burst of color and life to the fall landscape! Its leaves come with beautiful variegations in pinks, purples, and reds that blend beautifully with changing autumn foliage. Plant it in spring or in the fall after you tear out tired or frost-damaged annuals such as marigolds and impatiens. It likes rich, well-drained but moist soil.
Shown above: 'Red Pigeon' flowering kale
Many types of nicotiana are terrifically fragrant (especially at night) and are wonderful in attracting hummingbirds as well as fascinating hummingbird moths.
There are several types of nicotiana, also called flowering tobacco because it's a cousin of the regular tobacco plant. Try the shorter, more colorful types in containers or the front of beds or borders. The taller, white-only types, which can reach 5 feet, are dramatic in the back of borders. And they're ideal for night gardens; they're usually most fragrant at dusk. These plants do best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil, and they may reseed.
Like so many grasses, fountaingrass is spectacular when backlit by the rising or setting sun. Named for its especially graceful spray of foliage, fountaingrass also sends out beautiful, fuzzy flower plumes in late summer. The white, pink, or red plumes (depending on variety) continue into fall and bring a loose, informal look to plantings. This plant self-seeds freely, sometimes to the point of becoming invasive.
This wonderfully colorful, old-fashioned plant is easy to grow and great for a child's garden. Four o'clock earns its name because its lightly fragrant flowers open in late afternoon (or on cloudy days) and close the next morning.
Four o'clock is great for a bed or border and tends to reseed prolifically, assuring a steady supply for years to come. It also develops fleshy tubers that you can dig and store in a frost-free place for winter if you live north of Zone 8. Plant it outside after all danger of frost has passed.
Just as you'd expect from something called French, these marigolds are the fancy ones. French marigolds tend to be frilly and some boast a distinctive "crested eye." They grow roughly 8-12 inches high with a chic, neat, little growth habit and elegant dark green foliage.
They do best in full sun with moist, well-drained soil and will flower all summer long. They may reseed, coming back year after year, in spots where they're happy.
Exotic fuchsia is a fascinating flower, with lovely hanging lanternlike flowers in magentas, pinks, purples, and whites. If you're lucky, your fuchsia will attract hummingbirds. There are several types of fuchsia on the market. The most familiar to many gardeners are those grown in hanging baskets in the North. Recently, plant breeders have released a series of upright fuchsias with smaller flowers, often in shades of orange and red.
Fuchsias are actually tender perennials grown as annuals outside tropical regions. Plant them outside in spring after all danger of frost has passed. They need rich, well-drained soil and ample moisture. They do best in areas with cool summers; they don't like heat, humidity, or drought.
Shown above: 'Diva White' fuchsia
This tough plant endures poor soil, baked conditions, and drought beautifully and still produces bold-color, daisylike flowers from summer to frost.
A perennial in Zones 9-11 -- the hottest parts of the country -- gazania is grown as an annual elsewhere and blooms from mid-summer to frost. A summer plant often grown as an annual, gazania bears boldly colored daisy-shaped flowers from summer to frost. The flowers appear over toothed dark green or silver leaves (the foliage color differs between varieties). They're great in beds and borders and containers, too.
Plant established seedlings outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. Do not fertilize, and keep soil on the dry side.
Geraniums have been a gardener's favorite for well over a century. The old-fashioned standard for beds, borders, and containers, geranium is still one of the most popular plants today. Traditional bedding types love hot weather and hold up well to dry conditions; many offer colorful foliage. Regal, also called Martha Washington, geraniums are more delicate-looking and do better in the cool conditions of spring and fall.
Though most geraniums are grown as annuals, they are perennials in Zones 10-11. Bring them indoors to overwinter, if you like, then replant outdoors in spring. Or they can bloom indoors all year long if they get enough light.
Gerbera daisies are so perfect they hardly look real. They bloom in nearly every color (except true blues and purples) and produce fantastically large flowers on long, thick, sturdy stems. They last for a week or more in the vase, making them a favorite of flower arrangers.
This tender perennial will last the winter in only the warmest parts of the country, Zones 9-11. In the rest of the country, it is grown as an annual. It does well in average soil; it likes soil kept evenly moist but not overly wet. Fertilize lightly.
Globe amaranth is an all-time flower-gardening favorite. It seems to have it all -- it thrives in hot conditions, it blooms nearly nonstop, the interesting pom-pom flowers are great for cutting and drying, and it attracts butterflies. Plant globe amaranth and then step back to watch it thrive and add continual beauty until frost. It's great in beds, borders, and containers.
Plant established seedlings outdoors in spring after all danger of frost has passed. It tolerates a variety of soils and moisture levels. It isn't fussy about fertilizer, but be careful not to overfertilize.
This under-appreciated annual bears the most beautiful, satiny pink or white flowers for weeks in summer. It also goes by the charming name farewell-to-spring, perhaps because it blooms just as spring temperatures are rising. Plant it once and you won't want to go a growing season without it.
Native to areas of North America, this plant does best in areas with cool summers and in moist, well-drained soil. It's a great cut flower, too. Although you can sometimes find it as established seedlings, most gardeners will need to start it from seed. Plant directly in the ground in early spring; it dislikes transplanting. Don't fertilize. If it has too many nutrients, it will have lots of foliage and few flowers.
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